Thirty days of fasting, a way to detox the body

Thirty days of fasting, a way to detox the body
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Updated 30 April 2022

Thirty days of fasting, a way to detox the body

Thirty days of fasting, a way to detox the body
  • Since it stimulates metabolism and balances hunger and satiety hormones, fasting is considered especially useful for those wishing to lose weight and who are usually unsuccessful

DUBAI: In the Muslim world, Ramadan marks the holiest month of the Islamic calendar and is a time where millions of people practice fasting from food and drink, shifting their focus to self-reflection and spiritual growth.

But more recently, the trend of “intermittent fasting” has been heavily promoted by health gurus, celebrities and influencers as an effective weight-loss tool and way to detox the body.

These benefits, however, among many others, have long been studied as Muslims have been fasting from dawn to dusk during Ramadan for centuries.

So what happens to the human body after 30 days of time-restricted feeding?

Dr. Lina Shibib, a nutritionist at Medcare Hospital, Dubai, says the practice of periodically abstaining from food and drink for a month has proven to promote various healing processes in the body and improve functionality.

According to a new study from King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, fasting has been shown to boost brain function, improve long-term memory and generate new “hippocampal” neurons, which prevent neurodegenerative disorders.

“Fasting and exercise both boost the creation of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, in nerve cells,” said Shibib, pointing out that this protein is involved in learning, memory and the formation of new cells and has the ability to make neurons more stress-resistant.

“During fasting, neurons go into a ‘resource conservation and stress resistance’ state,” she said.

“When a person feeds after fasting, their neurons go into ‘growth’ mode, producing more proteins, growing, and forming new connections,” Shibib told Arab News.

As a result, these cycles of metabolic challenge followed by a recovery period, according to researchers, may improve neuroplasticity, learning, memory, concentration, sharpness and stress resistance in the brain.

“Researchers also found (that these hippocampal neurons) will slow the progression of cognitive decline, therefore (potentially) delaying or preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s,” Shibib said.

In other parts of the body, health experts have also seen subtle changes in organ function.

For instance, one study reported a decrease in blood sugar levels and an increase in insulin sensitivity in people who fasted during the month of Ramadan.

“When we fast, our bodies don’t have access to glucose as they normally do, requiring our cells to find other ways to generate energy,” Shibib said.

Fasting, in essence, rids our bodies of toxins, she explained, adding that when practiced regularly, it can encourage cells to engage in processes that are not normally triggered when a regular supply of food is available.

In fact, organs such as the liver and kidneys, both of which are responsible for detoxification, are then fully able to regenerate without the constant influx of additional toxins.

Such important cell-cleaning processes known as “autophagy” take place when the body is not required to digest any food, promoting its own immune defense.

On the other hand, fat is one of the body’s most stubborn toxins to get rid of, and therefore weight loss is a difficult process for millions of people worldwide.

According to Dr. Pankaj Shah, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, fat is only a toxin when the body’s capacity to store it in fat cells is overwhelmed and therefore stores it in places where it is toxic.

For example, fat stored in the liver can lead to a fatty liver, increasing the risk of diabetes, just as fat stored in muscle fiber or the pancreas can lead to the same prognosis.

“If by fasting the total body fat decreases, it is because the dietary fat is replaced by healthier fat,” said Shah, who referred to a necessary reduction in calorie intake.

If weight loss is achieved during Ramadan, improvements are then evident in the liver, muscles, insulin secretion and insulin action, and a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease is likely.

In fact, a review from the University of Sydney, Charles Perkins Center, Australia, found 70 studies and showed that over the Ramadan period, there is a reduction in body fat content (as a percent of body weight) in those who are overweight or obese.

Since it stimulates metabolism and balances hunger and satiety hormones, fasting is considered especially useful for those wishing to lose weight and who are usually unsuccessful.

However, over and beyond the physical changes and benefits of fasting, the ancient practice is considered one that brings about mindfulness and helps with mental and spiritual fulfillment.

“A lot of the benefits felt in Ramadan may be related to physical changes in fasting, but also, more family time, meditation, prayers and extra gratitude often seen during the religious period,” Shah said.


Two Dubai eateries make World’s 50 Best Restaurants ‘extended’ list

Orfali Bros made the list at number 87. (Instagram)
Orfali Bros made the list at number 87. (Instagram)
Updated 05 July 2022

Two Dubai eateries make World’s 50 Best Restaurants ‘extended’ list

Orfali Bros made the list at number 87. (Instagram)

DUBAI: It seems that UAE restaurants are having a moment this summer. Mere weeks after the Michelin Guide launched in the country, two Dubai restaurants — Tresind Studio and Orfali Bros — have been added to an extended list by the World's 50 Best Restaurants list ahead of the unveiling of this year's awards on July 18 in London.

In the run-up to the main announcement, the extended 51 to 100 list is traditionally announced as a precursor, which “shines a spotlight” on restaurants to watch.

Tresind Studio came in at number 57 while Orfali Bros made the list at number 87. It’s the first time either restaurant has made it to the extended global listing. 

While Tresind Studio, which offers set tasting menus featuring fusion Indian food, received its first Michelin star this year, Orfali Bros also made it to the Michelin guide’s Bib Gourmand category. Founded by brothers Mohammad, Wasim and Omar, Orfali Bros feature dishes with a “certain nostalgia and whimsy.”

In addition to the two Dubai restaurants, Istanbul-based restaurant Mikla also made the list at No. 86. Showcasing picturesque views of Istanbul, the restaurant is the brainchild of Turkish-Scandinavian chef Mehmet Gurs. 


Restaurateur Natasha Sideris talks Saudi plans, new dining concept in Dubai

Natasha Sideris is the founder and CEO of Tashas Group. (Supplied)
Natasha Sideris is the founder and CEO of Tashas Group. (Supplied)
Updated 04 July 2022

Restaurateur Natasha Sideris talks Saudi plans, new dining concept in Dubai

Natasha Sideris is the founder and CEO of Tashas Group. (Supplied)

DUBAI: It’s one of Dubai’s most buzzed about eateries and while the Instagram-worthy Flamingo Room readies to open its doors in Riyadh later this year, we caught up with restaurateur Natasha Sideris to find out more about her success and worldwide expansion plans.

The founder and CEO of Tashas Group, which has a portfolio of varied dining concepts, shed light on why she sees Saudi Arabia as a growing market, as well as her plans for new dining outlets.

“Our decision to expand into Saudi was informed by two things. Firstly, the location that we have found for Flamingo Room by tashas is extraordinary in Bujairi Terrace. Secondly, I think that there are wonderful opportunities in the country. It is a previously untapped market with a large population that is open to new concepts,” Sideris told Arab News.

“As with any new market, there will be challenges,” she added, explain that “we have spent eight years in the UAE forging great relationships with suppliers, shopfitters (and) photographers. It will take time to build relationships with new suppliers, but we are well on our way.”

Curating the concept specially for the Kingdom’s market, the group will open the destination restaurant in a three-storey building inspired by Najd architecture in Diriyah, on the banks of Wadi Hanifah.

The group, which was founded in South Africa and operates out of Dubai in the UAE, has seven brands under its umbrella: tashas, Le Parc by tashas, Flamingo Room by tashas, Avli by tashas, Galaxy Bar, Collective Africa, and 1701.

In addition to its expansion into Saudi Arabia, in the next six to 12 months the group plans to open five other locations, in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, South Africa and London.

“We are going to enter the UK market slowly and sensibly,” Sideris revealed. “The pandemic, as well as Brexit, have made a major impact so we want to make sure we adapt the concept to the market and, all going well, we will expand the number of locations. “

The group is also introducing a brand new concept in Dubai’s Alserkal Arts hub. Called Nala, the project will offer diners luxury quick-service, something the founder said is important to her.

“This concept is close to my heart and we have been working on it for a couple of years. So many people are strapped for time yet would like to eat beautiful food in a stunning environment. Our goal is to serve our guests freshly prepared meals quickly and provide fantastic quality at the same time.”


Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table

Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table
Updated 29 June 2022

Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table

Luna Reef brings unique cuisines from around the world to Jeddah’s dining table
  • The chefs from each restaurant are working hard to move their locales to a more permanent spot
  • Hoping to be part of already growing collection of superb restaurants in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Luna Reef Restaurants, located inside the Jeddah Yacht Club, has brought together five restaurants, each boasting authenticity and class and offering the best view of the sea in town: Italian restaurants Madeo and Le Vesuvio, French fine-dining restaurant Le Comptoir De Nicole, Sri Lankan eatery Hoppers, and pizza place Emmy Squared Pizza.

The chefs from each restaurant are working hard to move their locales to a more permanent spot so they can be a part of the already growing collection of superb restaurants in the Kingdom.

Daniel Lewis, the executive branch chef for Emmy Squared Pizza, said that they are always open to trying new things. The pizza parlor recently came up with the “Loaded Ronni” pizza, given the Saudi predilection for pepperoni pizza.

The pizzeria is a must-try for those who enjoy comfort food. The pizzas are baked in a square tin tray that is coated with brown butter. The spongy dough pairs sublimely with the mozzarella cheese, baked to golden perfection.

FASTFACT

French restaurant Le Comptoir De Nicole gets its name from old French; the word “comptoir” today is used to describe a casual, relaxed dining setting.

“In America, they call this kind of pizza a pie, and if you speak to an Italian chef, they are going to tell you it is not a pizza. However, the quality of the ingredients that we use is what matters the most. We get ourselves the best ingredients that we can globally, so that is what sets us apart from the run-of-the-mill pizza,” Lewis said.

Some of the ingredients used in the pizza are shipped here from Italy to ensure they are the best in the market. The chef said that they were still working to put a Saudi twist on things.

“I have some Middle Eastern experience, but this year I am going to dive much deeper into the culture and try to adapt some of our recipes and offerings to the people here. While doing that, we still want to maintain the award-winning standard that we have set.”

When asked about his favorite aspect of the restaurant, he said it is a perfect setting for groups: “It is all about sharing. It is very relaxed.”

Madeo, for its part, does not just represent Italian food but the legacy of an Italian family. It is owned and run by Alfio Vietina and his wife Elvira Buffoni. For over 35 years, they have been creating recipes and plan to hand them down to the coming generations.

For Madeo, the main idea is not to put a twist on Italian food but to remain consistent and deliver the same food in Jeddah as is served in their branch in Los Angeles.

FASTFACT

The square pizza trend caught on with mechanics in Detroit, as they would keep screws and other smaller components in similar tin boxes; later, they would take them home and bake pizzas in them.

“We must follow the recipe, and every day we try and make the best version of it. We are very excited to give our guests an Italian fine-dining experience,” said Davide Figliolini, executive chef of Madeo.

The restaurant has kept its food simple yet delicious, so it appeals to all palates.

Customers of French eatery Le Comptoir De Nicole, meanwhile, say it is the “perfect place to fall in love” with its beautiful view of the nightly fireworks. It presents the signature dishes of Nicole Rubi, who has managed to capture the spirit of Nice, located on the French Riviera, in her culinary creations. Their burrata fraiche and Wagyu beef tagliata are among the restaurant’s best sellers.

Head Chef Joginder Dham said: “The coast of Jeddah is the perfect setting for the bright and cheerful Comptoir de Nicole. I am happy to bring Mediterranean classics to the Red Sea.”


Saudi Arabia investment gives yoga a new twist

The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
Updated 26 June 2022

Saudi Arabia investment gives yoga a new twist

The Saudi Yoga Committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities of the Kingdom. (Supplied)
  • Training academies, modern studios to promote sport in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Yoga — an ancient art, science and sport combined — is getting a modern twist as Saudi Arabia begins planning specialist academies and training institutes to cater for the growing community of devotees in the Kingdom.

As part of the 8th International Yoga Day, the Saudi Yoga Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, launched its own page on the Nafes platform to encourage investment in yoga by opening halls, academies and institutes to train instructors, and to speed up the issuing of licenses for studios and centers.

“Due to the strong demand for yoga in the Kingdom, the committee aims to increase the number of yoga centers and studios in all cities so that it is easier to access and practice yoga,” said Nouf Al-Marwaai, president of the Saudi Yoga Committee.

HIGHLIGHT

As part of the 8th International Yoga Day, the Saudi Yoga Committee, in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport, launched its own page on the Nafes platform to encourage investment in yoga by opening halls, academies and institutes to train instructors, and to speed up the issuing of licenses for studios and centers.

Al-Marwaai said that these services and centers are concentrated in the main cities, but growing demand has recently been noticed in southern regions in Asir and Abha, in the north in Tabuk and Hail, and in the west in Makkah and Madinah, Yanbu and Rabigh, as well as in smaller cities such as Al-Aflaj and on the outskirts of the Riyadh region.

“They all have a community of yoga instructors and practitioners,” she said.

Nouf Al-Marwaai, president of the Saudi Yoga Committee.

Al-Marwaai said that the committee has launched other initiatives to promote yoga sports in Saudi Arabia.

“In addition to registering yogaasana players in the Saudi Yoga Committee, and issuing licenses to yoga trainers and teachers in cooperation with the Ministry of Sport on the Nafes platform, we are also inviting all yoga practitioners to participate in the first professional yogasana competition in the Kingdom,” she said.

“The aim of the competition is to create a platform for yoga professionals in the Kingdom, and expand the concept of yoga tournaments and competitions, as the Saudi Yoga Committee cooperates with International bodies such as the Asian Yogasana Sports Federation and the World Yogasana Sports Federation to form local, regional and international championships.”

The competition will be a traditional yogasana competition, consisting of three compulsory poses. The first three winners will be honored with financial prizes and will be added to the Saudi Yoga Committee as professional players.

Entrants simply post a 10-second video while holding the pose on Instagram or Twitter, mentioning the Saudi Yoga Committee account and the following hashtags #Saudi_Yoga_Competition.

Al-Marwaai said that the competition will encourage the practice of different types of yoga.

The competition began on June 21 and results will be announced on July 3.

“The Saudi Yoga Committee expects a great response to these initiatives due to a large number of yoga lovers, practitioners and trainers in the Kingdom,” she said.

Recently, Al-Marwaai was a guest of the Embassy of India in Riyadh, while Saudi Yoga Committee CEO Ahmed Al-Saadi attended a ceremony at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah.


Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
Updated 25 June 2022

Is there a future for psychedelic treatment in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan. (Supplied)
  • Haya Al-Hejailan wants to open a clinic and to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research

RIYADH: Psychedelic researcher Stanislov Grof once wrote that “psychedelics, used responsibly and with proper caution, would be for psychiatry what the microscope is for biology and medicine or the telescope is for astronomy.”

To many, this may sound like an outlandish claim, but now more than ever, it is proving to be true and may very well become a frontier in practicing medicine.

Saudi Arabia was enduring a mental health epidemic and the psychological strains of the pandemic exacerbated that. People are finding themselves desperate for ways to cope. One of the most recent psychotherapy methods in the region, albeit stigmatized, is psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. A recent study published by Neuropsychopharmacology showed that the substances were proven to achieve positive long-term mental health effects and their efficiency, safety and tolerability in treating major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain addictions.

I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, I’m sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet.

Haya Al-Hejailan, Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist

It is also associated with enhancing creativity and problem-solving, according to an article published by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs in 2019.

While the stigma around mind-altering substances, both in the region and globally, is unavoidable, researchers and scientists argue that if these drugs are regulated and used purely for medicinal reasons, what is the harm?

The term “psychedelics,” a class of hallucinogens, comes from the Greek words “psyche,” meaning the mind, and “delia,” meaning manifesting. The psychoactive substances are meant to alter the mind and create an alternative cognitive perception.

Psychedelics are classified into classical, which includes lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), psilocybin (commonly known as magic mushrooms), mescaline and others, and non-classical, such as methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy) and ketamine.

“(They’re) really great tools for us being able to understand the brain and the study of consciousness better,” Saudi well-being practitioner and psychedelic integration specialist Haya Al-Hejailan told Arab News. Her work centers on psychedelic research and the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

This point may seem counterintuitive: How can addiction be treated with a substance that may cause another addiction? But psychedelics are, in fact, anti-addictive in nature.

“They have anti-addictive properties, meaning they don’t constitute physiological addiction, but one can become psychologically addicted to anything,” said Al-Hejailan, refererring to non-substance addictions such as coffee or mobile devices.

However, the use of psychedelics can pose certain dangers, making it crucial to undergo treatment strictly under professional medical supervision, which can only be accessible through clinics. Psychedelic therapists are trained to create a controlled environment for patients undergoing psychedelic therapy, with sessions prior to administering the treatment dose to identify any red flags or possible risks that would otherwise create a larger margin of error. Patients who self-dose could potentially be subject to health risks, retraumatization, depersonalization and dissociation.

“I get more people contacting me asking me how they can receive this treatment, and it’s really heartbreaking to tell them, ‘I'm sorry, but you’re gonna have to wait. It’s not available yet,’” Al-Hejailan said. “But I’m optimistic with highlighting the word ‘yet.’”

An article published by The Lancet showed that most antidepressants are ineffective and can be harmful to adolescents and children.

In an attempt to fulfill that medical need, several research efforts and trials have been unertaken to evaluate alternative routes, such as psychedelic-assisted therapy.

A study published by the National Library of Medicine found that small IV doses of ketamine can have positive, long-lasting antidepressant effects in patients. Although the scientific research regarding psychotherapeutic psychedelic use in the region is insufficient, Saudi Arabia has been easing its way into their use use for other purposes. Last year, the Saudi Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper describing a successful case of refractory status epilepsy, a life-threatening condition, in a child treated with a single dose of ketamine.

Despite its growing popularity in mainstream media, psychedelic science is one of the cutting-edge neurosciences, yielding insufficient research compared to other sciences. The 1950s saw the first English-language report published on LSD, and research continued into Richard Nixon’s US presidential term, ending in the 70s. However, research efforts were quickly banned under the justification of the war on drugs as a public enemy declared by the US president. However, it was supported by other factors, such as the lack of funding for psychedelic research and failed medical trials, according to an article published by the Cambridge University Press.

That area of medicine was considered niche until recently. In 2017, MDMA was given “breakthrough therapy” designation by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning it was granted an expedited review process. In 2018, the FDA granted a group of psychiatrists researching psilocybin-assisted therapy for treatment-resistant depression the same status.

In the same year, Michael Pollan’s book “How to Change Your Mind” created a public space for people to think differently about psychedelics and the consciousness expansion of the mind. Ketamine was granted the same status a year later. Arguably, that is when psychedelics hit the mainstream, although its resurgence into clinical research and trials resumed in the 1990s.

“(Before that) I was met with a lot of skepticism. People literally thought I was talking about something that’s crazy,” Al-Hejailan said in reference to discussing psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy before 2018.

“There’s a lot of interest, enthusiasm and curiosity that I’m met with now when I talk about my work.”

With a master’s in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology from the University of East London, Al-Hejailan’s work also includes positive psychology integration and psychedelic education, providing training in psychedelic therapy and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy. She also co-directed and co-produced a documentary titled “Psychedelic Renaissance,” centered on the reemergence of the psychedelic movement globally and its cultural significance.

Al-Hejailan said that raising awareness about psychedelic studies was the first step in creating a regional environment that allows for alternative psychotherapy methods.

“I think we need to, in general, focus more of our energy and attention on psychoeducation, educating the public about mental health and well-being. The more we do that, the more people are likely to continue becoming accepting and interested,” she said.

Future steps to normalize the use of psychoactive drugs include active training for clinicians and therapists on their uses and benefits and eventually establishing specialized clinics and research centers.

“My goal is to have presentations specifically on psychotherapy and to meet with therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists and other physicians, and policymakers at some point. To show them what’s happening abroad, what the science shows and to discuss how we can replicate this here in a safe way that respects our culture and that respects our specific or unique needs,” Al-Hejailan said.

“I really want to open a clinic and research center here. Me and my colleagues would very much love to see Saudi pioneer in psychedelic research in the region, and maybe globally.”